The World of 4K Gaming: What You Need to Know

The World of 4K Gaming What You Need to Know

With E3 just around the corner, we believe some education is in order! For those projector fans who are looking to break into the world of 4K gaming – or those who are finally fed up with their tiny 60” LCD TV – this article will provide some insight into what you’ll need to get started. From input lag to 4K projectors, you’ll find valuable information on how to navigate your buying journey.

Input Lag

Input lag is an important term in the world of projector gaming. It is a word that relates to the gaming speed performance on projectors – the time between when the gaming system sends out its signal, to the time it is received by the projector, and is measured in milliseconds. The range of acceptable input lag speeds range from as high as 50ms (and a little bit above), to as low as 16ms.

50ms or a little above will be “acceptable” to all but the most hard core, high-speed gamers. We’re talking the competitive, first person shooter, career-gamer types. Some will begrudgingly admit that the display is fast enough around this speed, but no serious gamer is going to be truly happy with 50+ ms.

The next tier down is 33-40 ms, which we would consider to be pretty good. These speeds will be fine for all but the most aggressive gamers. My projector, the Epson Home Cinema 5040UB, performs well on graphics-heavy games, such as Assassin’s Creed Odyssey (my current play) and Red Dead Redemption 2 (my husband’s current game). When he hops online to posse up, the gameplay is smooth – especially now that they updated online play from beta. If you didn’t get the beta version of online, trust me that the graphics and gameplay have significantly improved.

But back to input lag – my 5040UB is in and around 33ms, which is just over 1 frame behind on a 30 fps game, or 2 frames behind on a 60 fps game. That’s nothing to cry about unless you are, again, one of those career-gamers. If a projector measures in the 33-40ms range, consider it to be worthy of your short list (provided it meets your other needs) for casual gaming.

The best of the best measurements for input lag is in the 16-20ms range. Of course, 0 would be ideal, but it’s been years since we’ve reviewed any projector with less than a 16ms input lag. Manufacturers – if you’re reading this and have a projector you believe can end this sub-16ms-lag drought, send Art an email at reviewer@projectorreviews.com – I’m dying to get my hands on it for review!

4K Gaming with HDR

Assassin's Creed Origins as projected by the ViewSonic PX706HD Gaming Projector

HDR is a feature that appears on many 4K UHD projectors on the market, but not all. The acronym stands for “High Dynamic Range,” and refers to a type of image processing in 4K capable projectors and TVs that saturates the colors to become more vibrant, with more “pop and wow” factor. It does so by expanding the contrast and color, often significantly. On most projectors, HDR will considerably reduce the brightness of whatever color mode it is being used on.

The list of projectors that have the ability to handle 4K games with HDR gets significantly shorter than the list of projectors that have HDR. This has to do with the type of HDMI port that is used on projectors that can handle 4K gaming with HDR, and those that cannot. To project a game in 4K HDR at 60 fps, the projector requires an HDMI port that is 18 Ghz.

Though my projector performs admirably in all other areas, this is where the Epson Home Cinema 5040UB falls short – it does not have an 18 Ghz HDMI port, so it cannot process the signal to project my beloved games in 4K HDR. Bummer. This is an issue that has been remedied with their upgrade to the 5040UB, which goes by the name of Epson Home Cinema 5050UB. You can check out its first look review by Art Feierman to see if this projector peaks your interest.

4K Gaming Projectors with HDR

Speaking of projectors that can handle 4K gaming with HDR, there are at least a few others besides Epson’s Home Cinema 5050UB. All of the new Sony 4K projectors have 18 Ghz HDMIs, and those are true 4K projectors – that is, 4096×2160, as opposed to 4K UHD, which is 3840×2160 pixels. The lowest cost of these is the Sony VPL-VW295ES, a $4,999 projector with an input lag of 27ms on 1080p games, and up to 40ms on 4K games.

The Optoma UHD60 is a 4K UHD projector priced at $3,799 list at the time of its published review last year, and has that 18 Ghz HDMI port. I found it online for about half that price, so shop around. Its sibling, the Optoma UHD65, also supports 4K gaming. I’ve seen that one for $2,299. All the new JVCs have support for 4K gaming, and are ones to consider. If you do, you’ll get an added bonus – JVCs are known for having the best black level performance around. Their price points are comparable to that of Sony’s.

The lower-cost 4K UHD models don’t tend to have support for 4K gaming. And, while we’re on the subject of projectors you shouldn’t look at if you want your games projected in 4K, steer clear of the Epson HC4010 and HC4050. Though these are fine projectors in their own rite, they do not have the 18 Ghz HDMI port – only the Epson Home Cinema 5050UB does at this time. If 4K gaming is important to you, make sure to choose a projector with that 18 Ghz HDMI feature. If not, there are plenty of lower-cost 4K UHD and 1080p pixel shifters capable of satisfying your desire for 4K movies!

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